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MAKE EYEPIECE ACCESSORY CASES
Even taking only the bare necessities, it's no
fumbling around in the dark to find a cap or eyepiece.
Even if you only own a few eyepieces, a barlow, a couple of filters, and a diagonal, it's good to have something to carry it all in. Of course you want a hard, padded case to protect your equipment. Ideally it should be stored for easy access in the field, and so that one look at the open case will tell you if you are forgetting anything. You can buy cases with velcro dividers, pluck-foam inserts, and even ones with holes pre cut for eyepieces to stand them in vertically.
The pluck-foam ones tend to fall apart after a while, and the size of the compartments is limited by the cut in the squares. The pre cut variety are impractical for me. They don't hold larger eyepieces like a 41mm Panoptic very well, and the hole sizes aren't as varied as the eyepieces available today. It would also be nice to be able to place the eyepiece caps in their spaces during viewing, and trying getting one out of the bottom of one of those deep chambers would be difficult.
I could have built wooden cases similar to those I built as telescope travel cases, but decided to take the lazy approach and buy cases this time. These cases are lighter and more attractive than any wooden case I could build, but the option is still there if you choose to do so. I decided to buy a hardshell case, line it with my own foam, and cut the individual chambers to my own specifications. I decided to lie the eyepieces on their side, making for easy removal and also giving me a convenient place for the end caps during use. I found some appropriate cases at a camera supply shop that came with moveable velcro dividers, which I tossed aside. The case was 4" deep, and had a lid that was padded and added another inch. I purchased some 2" thick foam which is commonly available (I got mine from Fabricland), and cut 2 sections the size of the case interior.
Arrange the case contents with sufficient space between them (don't overcrowd).
Remember that you will be using it in the dark, and try to have it arranged accordingly.
The case shown in these photos was designed to carry my 6 Televue Radians, and a Williams diagonal. I arranged the accessories on top of the top foam sheet I cut, trying to have them arranged in an attractive, organized manner with equal space between them. Rather than draw all over the foam, I used a fine marker to place a small dot at the corners surrounding each item to be inserted. Foam is hard to draw on with a pen, and it soaks up marker ink which could spread and mark the foam.
With all of the dots in place, and the accessories carefully arranged on the floor in the same order as their compartments for reference, I cut the foam. I used a thin exacto knife with a sharp blade and a ruler. By connecting the dots with the ruler and pressing down lightly (not too hard or the cut would be crooked when I lifted the ruler), and using it to guide the knife the cuts were clean. The hardest part was not cutting too far one way, and leaving a gash in the side of a compartment.
I then placed the bottom layer into the case, and put the top layer with the individual compartments on top of it. The result was a case that protected my equipment well, yet when opened provided quick, organized access to my accessories and gave me a place to put the caps while viewing. I made another case this way to hold my Televue Panoptics and an assortment of filters.
It takes a little patience to cut the individual chambers cleanly, but it's protecting your
valuable equipment that's important. It will likely be dark when people see it anyway.
I also have made 2 more cases to hold other items such as Telrads, more diagonals, a Parracor, finderscopes, and other assorted goodies. These cases are slightly different, in that they have solid dividers that are quite sturdy. Instead of cutting one big foam sheet for the top layer of one case, I split it up into compartments first. This not only made the individual pieces a more managable size, but as I get more accessories I can change individual compartments instead of making a whole new piece the size of the entire case.
Having a case for everything makes it easier to locate an accessory in the field,
and you are less likely to leave something behind or lose it.
All of the basic needs at my fingertips, ready for a night of observing.The tray frame mounted to
the top of the table tilts for easy access, and there is ample room left over for charts, a red light, etc.